Citing the improving COVID-19 situation in Quebec, the government announced on Friday that it will allow gyms to reopen provincewide on March 26 and will take the first steps toward the resumption of team sports.
Those steps are small: Dr. Richard Massé, the strategic medical advisor for Quebec Public Health, called them "micro-adjustments."
At the same time, he acknowledged that gyms and other sports facilities have been the site of outbreaks in the past. But he said he is confident that operators will follow the conditions that accompany the relaxed rules.
In red zones, all indoor fitness facilities — a list that includes gyms, dance studios and martial arts training facilities, among others — will be allowed to open, but they will need to keep a registry of those who attend. People will only be able to train solo, with one other person, or with multiple people from the same household.
Group outdoor sports and recreational training will remain open to a maximum of eight people in red zones but will increase to 12 people in orange zones.
Limited indoor group activities — involving up to eight people — will be permitted in orange zones, but physical distancing rules will remain in effect and a designated person will need to monitor the activities to make sure guidelines are followed.
Actual competitions and games remain on the horizon, but Isabelle Charest, the provincial government's minister responsible for sports, forecasts a planned, progressive return to normal conditions as Quebec's vaccination campaign advances, provided the pandemic situation continues to improve.
"It's only by going slowly that we'll be able to do those activities that we love," she said.
Massé said a return to "quasi-normal life for sports" could take place within two or three months. But he cautioned that public health authorities were working to maintain a "fragile balance," mindful of both the fitness and mental health of the population and the uncertainties of the pandemic.
"With variants coming into the picture, we have to be careful," he noted. There is a risk that the situation could take a turn for the worse, he said, but he pointed to the recent decline in cases and the population's overall co-operation with public health measures as reasons for optimism.
"If we have reports of people not doing things correctly or outbreaks, we might have to intervene," Massé said. "Obviously this is not what we want to do."
Extracurricular school activities, within stable classroom groups, will be permitted in red zones as of March 15. In orange zones, the restrictions will be further loosened on March 26, when students from different classroom groups will be permitted to participate together in extracurricular activities — with the same limits of 12 people for outdoor activities and eight for indoor activities.
Spas, indoor hotel pools also get green light
Spas will soon be allowed to reopen their hot tub and sauna facilities, the government announced Friday.
Right now, spas are allowed to offer certain services, including massages.
But starting March 15 in orange zones and March 26 in red zones, the facilities will be allowed to fully reopen, with public health measures in place.
That same day, hotel pools will also be reopening across the province, though with a limit on the number of people allowed in and distancing measures in place.